Chris Mautner, Author at Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
Normally, when we talk about art – which, of course, is different from mere entertainment – we like to phrase it in rarefied terms. We tend to want our art to focus on the examination or discussion of high-minded ideals like truth, beauty, justice, wisdom, or the existence of a sentient spiritual being and subsequent afterlife. Stuff like that. We want our movies, music and books to be concerned with the ethereal world, and not so much with the physical one, especially unpleasant or embarrassing tasks like defecating or sexual congress. Being reminded that only a thin layer of skin holds in all those slimy organs, blood and other icky stuff keeps us from musing on what special snowflakes we all are (not to mention the horror of our own eventual death).
When we do acknowledge that stuff, it tends to be in the form of “low” comedy or horror films, where jokes about going to the bathroom, violence, lustful urges and other aspects of our daily physical lives that make us uncomfortable, can be digested more easily because we often exhibit it in as loud and gross a manner as possible.
But delving knee-deep into viscera and body fluids doesn’t ipso facto mean you have to forego subtlety, nuance or poetry. Take Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit series for example.
The recently resurrected Alternative Comics has announced its full list of comics for the spring and summer of this year. They include:
- The Big Feminist BUT, edited by Joan Reilly and Shannon O’Leary. An anthology featuring work by folks like Lauren Weinstein, Jeffrey Brown, Sarah Oleksyk, Gabrielle Bell, Justin Hall, Ron Rege Jr. and Vanessa Davis. (March)
- Sunbeam on the Astronaut, by Steven Cerio. A collection of Cerio’s psychedelic comics, art work and illustrations. (April; you can see a preview of the book here)
- (Mostly) Wordless, by Jed Alexander. An all-ages collection of short stories, told using as few words as possible (hence the title). (April)
- Ritual 3: Vile Decay, by Malachi Ward. A sci-fi story involving an old woman relating to her grandson how exactly everything went horribly wrong. (June)
- Magic Whistle #14, by Sam Henderson. Henderson returns to his long-running, one-man humor anthology. (June)
- Sugar Booger #2-3, by Kevin Scalzo. Scalzo’s dayglo all-ages series continues. For more on this comic, see my interview with Scalzo. (March and July)
- Unspoken, by Megan Kelso. A newly “remastered” version of Kelso’s 1990s-era zine collecting various short strips that haven’t been collected elsewhere. (August)
In addition, the company also plans to offer digital releases of Megan Kelso’s seminal Girlhero series (all six issues); Backwards Folding Mirror by Forming author Jesse Moynihan (three issues); Cat Suit by Steve Lafler; Subway Series and Queen’s Day by Leela Corman; The Vagabonds by Josh Neufield; and More Mundane by Noah Van Sciver.
You can read the full press release below.
The small press publisher Hic & Hoc has announced its publishing plans for the year. The upcoming line-up includes:
Mimi and the Wolves Act I by Alabaster. A new edition of Alabaster’s self-published about a young girl who goes off into some mysterious woods to find a cure for the disturbing dreams she’s been having. Due in the spring.
Irene Volume 4 edited by Dakota McFadzean, Andy Warner and d w. An anthology of work by new cartoonists, including Amy Lockhart, Emi Gennis, Jackie Roche and James Hindle. Due in the spring.
Scaffold: The Collected Edition by V A Graham & J A Eisenhower. A sprawling, experimental comic with elaborate map-like layouts involving a dystopian fantasy world. I read the first volume of this at Comic Arts Brooklyn, and I’m not even sure how to accurately describe it. Due in the summer.
Death, taxes and new comics. Those are just a few things we can expect in the New Year (not YOUR death necessarily, just death in general). Anyway, lots of comics will be published this year. Here are six I’m really looking forward to and that I think you should be excited about as well. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments.
1. Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley (Random House). A bit of an obvious choice perhaps. Still, whether you loved Scott Pilgrim or hated it to tiny, tiny pieces, there’s little doubt that O’Malley’s big follow-up to his uber-successful and much ballyhooed series is going to draw a lot of attention from all corners of comics fandom. There’s a lot of people curious about this book, about which little is known other than it takes place in a restaurant. Count me among them.
2. Arsene Schrauwen by Olivier Schrauwen (Fantagraphics). Is Olivier Schrauwen one of the most amazing, inventive and original cartoonists to come along in decades? Well, duh. If you’ve read The Man Who Grew His Beard, My Boy or perhaps the initial chapter of this (I’m assuming) invented tale of the author’s grandfather, you know how creative and fearless he can be. This might well be the book I’m most looking forward to this year.
It happens every year: Despite the best efforts of authors, publishers and publicists, there are smart, funny and downright entertaining comics that fail to get their proper due. It’s a truth made more manifest every year as production and publishing costs are lowered and more and more people find ways of getting their work on print or online.
So once again I’ve put together a list of some books I thought could have used a bit more love, at least in terms of coverage if not also sales (though usually it’s both). These aren’t necessarily the best books of the past year – I’m not sure I’d swap any of them out for my own top 10 list – they’re just really good comics that didn’t seem to get enough attention. Let me know what you’d add to the list in the comments section below.
There’s been a wealth of children comics available recently, but I feel pretty safe in saying there hasn’t been anything quite like Kevin Scalzo‘s Sugar Booger. At least, I haven’t seen any comics involving a large, boisterous, bright blue bear with the uncanny ability to make delicious candy spew forth from his nose.
Although he’s been a part of the alternative comics scene for several decades now, Scalzo is jumping into serialized waters with the release of the first issue of this ongoing series (two more issues are planned for 2014) from Alternative Comics.
Combining a DayGlo pop sensibility with some Margaret Keane-like eyeballs, a dash of (PG-rated) underground grotesquery, and a dollop of Casper the Friendly Ghost for good measure, Sugar Booger is a rather tart confection that, while perhaps not for all tastes, will be appreciated by those who like a salty edge to their confectioneries.
I talked to Scalzo over email about the new comic, writing for kids, and his plans for the series.
There’s are a number of reasons why Dennis Eichhorn‘s Real Stuff was regarded as one of the better autobiographical comics of the 1990s. One thing, of course, was that he has lived an interesting and varied life – including a stint in jail – and has come across some unique, and at times bizarre, characters.
The other is that Eichhorn was a gifted raconteur, knowing exactly what beats of his story to hit and when, and the perfect point to deliver the punchline, even if it was retelling a funny thing someone said over drinks. Add to that the fact he collaborated with some of the most talented cartoonists in the industry at the time – Mary Fleener, Julie Doucet, Peter Bagge and Chester Brown, to name just a few – and tailored his stories to fit each artist’s unique strengths. I don’t know how the division of labor works with Eichhorn, whether he gives out detailed thumbnails or just a page of uninterrupted text, but he seems to understand the rhythm of comics exceedingly well.
British publisher SelfMadeHero earlier today announced its publishing plans for the first few months of 2014. They include a biography of painter Vincent van Gogh by Dutch artist Barbara Stok, a political satire set during the Iraq War by Abel Lanzac and Christophe Blain (!), the true story of boxer Hertzko Haft, who survived Auschwitz to become a heavyweight prize-fighter, and a collaboration between David Camus and Nick Abadzis (Laika, Hugo Tate) that involves Orson Welles and a Cuban cigar-roller.
You can find the full descriptions below.
Small press publisher 2D Cloud will have two new books debut at this year’s Toronto Comics Arts Festival. One of those is Rudy by Mark Connery, which we mentioned on Wednesday. The other is Detrimental Information by John and Luke Holden. Critic and blogger Rob Clough describes the Holdens as ”two brothers with a touch for the bizarre and grotesque” and “a deadpan, absurd sense of humor perfectly offset by the scrawled, often manic nature of their linework.”
2D Publisher Raighne Hogan provided us with a eight-page preview of their upcoming book, which is expected to arrive in stores in the spring. Check it out below.
Science and comics have proved a popular combination lately, as more and more cartoonists here and abroad attempt to tackle real-life topics that don’t involve their love lives (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The latest entry in this category will come in April when Abrams releases Climate Changed: A Personal Journey through the Science by French author Philippe Squarzoni.
The book, which will be 480 pages and cost $24.95, will examine what exactly global warming and its effects are while asking whether we have the ability to stave off the dire predictions that some make. Nonfiction is no stranger to Squarzoni, who has previously completed books about Central American politics and author Richard Brautigan, and this promises to be a highly detailed, heavily researched book.
After the jump you can read Abrams’ official press release:
Linthout’s first book on these shores was The Years of the Elephant, about a father trying to cope with his son’s suicide, published in 2010 by Fanfare/Ponent Mon. This new book, Conundrum’s description notes, is a sequel to Years, which won the Flemish Bronzen Adhemar.
[What We Need to Know] uses a wide-angle lens to encompass the entire family, specifically three brothers who each need to cope with their own ghosts. The style of both these autobiographical books is done in pencils without inks, in other words a rough and unfinished look, which perfectly matches the psychological state of the characters. Fortunately, they can consult “The Book” in emergencies. In that magic reference work, the famous artist WL’s mother has collected innumerable facts, recipes, and advice, in essence, what we need to know about life.
Conundrum was kind enough to provide us with a preview of the book, which you can see below.
London-based small press publisher Breakdown Press hasn’t been around very long, but it already has an ambitious line-up planned for the new year.
Having already published books by such intriguing up-and-coming artists as Connor Willumsen and Richard Short, Breakdown’s 2014 line-up includes Mutiny Bay by Antoine Cosse, a 16th-century epic about two of Magellan’s men who end up marooned, and Good News Bible: The Deadline Strips of Shaky Kane, which collects all the work The Bulletproof Coffin artist did for the ’90 British comics magazine.
Below you can find some exclusive preview pages, as well as details from the publisher.
Alternative Comics has announced it will release Sunbeam on the Astronaut by Steven Cerio in April. The 56-page book collects new and previously unpublished material by by the artist, whose hallucinatory images have graced numerous anthologies (Last Gasp Comics and Stories, Hotwire), as well as album covers and posters for such performers as The Residents and Ministry, not to mention his own books, Pie and Steven Cerio’s ABC Book: A Drug Primer.
Sunbeam on the Astronaut will include stills from his recent film The Magnificent Pigtail Shadow, and stories involving characters from some of the film projects he did with The Residents, as well as paintings, collages and more. The book will also be available on Apple’s iBooks with a full soundtrack and narration.
Drawn and Quarterly has an extensive list of releases planned for the first half of the new year, including the debut book by Belgian cartoonist Brecht Vandenbroucke, White Cube. The 64-page book will go on sale in March for the list price of $22.95, and Vandenbroucke will appear in April at MoCCA to help promote it.
White Cube is a collection of wordless gag strips mostly involving a pair of twins who attempt to interact with the worlds of art, fashion and high culture in general, with humorous results. Although this is his first book, Vandenbroucke’s work might be familiar to you, as he’s done comics for Nobrow and illustrations for The New York Times.
Below, you can read D&Q’s press release and sample a five-page preview.
Now the 49th state can add at least one name to its roster, Anna Bongiovanni. The Fairbanks native, now transplanted to Minnesota, released her debut Out of Hollow Water through the small-press publisher 2D Cloud. It’s a rather haunting trio of short stories, told in simple, one-panel-per-page fashion, to detail various emotional, familial and even sexual trauma. Bongiovanni, however, relies upon folklore and fairy-tale tropes to give her stories an eerie, otherworldly feel that makes these stories both alien and universal at the same time. It’s a pretty impressive debut.
I talked with Bongiovanni over email during the holidays about her new book and its origins.
Chris Mautner: First of all, tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? How did you get interested in drawing? How were you introduced to comics and what made you decide to start making your own?
Ann Bongiovanni: I was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. I never got into comics until my parents just happened to buy an Archie comic from the grocery store. Then I was hooked, like obsessed, with Archie comics. Luckily, I calmed down and – while Archie holds a special nostalgic place in my heart – I am not nearly as crazed about the series as I once was. For a few years, I attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and tried to major in elementary education, but all I ever did was draw comics. It’s what I did in-between homework assignments and during lectures. Instead of going to parties, I was drawing in my dorm room alone. I don’t really know what that says about me (yikes), but I couldn’t really think about anything other than telling my own stories. It didn’t help that I really dislike children and wanted nothing to do with them. My parents convinced me to try attending the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2007 and get a BFA in comic art, and I’ve been drawing comics ever since.